31 Aug 2014

The blogger, the minister and the SFO

9:53 am on 31 August 2014

Rightwing blogger Cameron Slater posted a series of blogs attacking the then Serious Fraud Office (SFO) director, Adam Feeley, in 2011, around the same time as he wrote his friend Judith Collins was gunning for Mr Feeley.

Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

Blogger Cameron Slater. Photo: Supplied

Ms Collins resigned as a minister yesterday after an email from Mr Slater surfaced suggesting she had been involved in efforts to undermine Mr Feeley.

She denies she was involved in any campaign against Mr Feeley and has asked the Prime Minister, John Key, to hold an inquiry to clear her name.

Mr Slater has told reporters he was just big noting.

The email is believed to have been written to PR professional Carrick Graham and it is suggested also to Mark Hotchin, who used to run failed finance company Hanover.

The Sunday Star-Times has published a story today, based on a series of emails leaked to it, which suggest links between the three men and Cathy Odgers, who blogs under the pseudonym Cactus Kate.

Judith Collins during question time at the debating chamber, Parliament.

Judith Collins during question time at the debating chamber, Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Mr Slater refused to confirm the 'Mark' in his email is Mark Hotchin. But the blogger has written a number of blogs attacking Mr Feeley for pursuing Mr Hotchin over the collapse of Hanover.

The SFO subsequently took no action on the matter.

In the email Mr Slater talks about a campaign which involved leaking information to and from the New Zealand Herald, to undermine Mr Feeley.

Mr Slater wrote: "I also spoke at length with the Minister responsible today [Judith Collins]. She is gunning for Feeley. Any information that we can provide her on his background is appreciated."

Much of this occurred at a time when Mr Feeley faced public criticism after the New Zealand Herald reported he had toasted the charging of Bridgecorp directors with a $70 bottle of the company's sparkling wine.

He had also given a copy of South Canterbury Finance founder Allan Hubbard's biography as a booby prize at an SFO party.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie. Photo: RNZ

In one post on October 21, 2011, Mr Slater wrote: "Ms Collins has said she will be making her views clear when she next meets Mr Feeley. That is not an experience he will relish. She is not called Crusher for nothing."

Meanwhile, the State Services Commission said it can find no evidence Ms Collins attempted to influence its view of Mr Feeley's performance.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said he was contacted by the Prime Minister's office over the past 24 hours.

Mr Rennie says he is extremely concerned by an allegation that a minister has associated with third parties to discuss influencing his assessment of a public service chief executive. If true, it would be entirely unacceptable.

But he said there is no evidence of that.

"I told the Prime Minister's Office that Judith Collins had a positive view of Mr Feeley's performance through her time as Minister responsible for the Serious Fraud Office."

He said the Commission has reviewed its documentation and sought the recollections of staff responsible for the SFO portfolio at the time in coming to this view.

Mr Rennie confirmed that Ms Collins had raised with him the appropriateness of Mr Feeley's consumption of a bottle of champagne following a media inquiry.

"It was appropriate that she spoke to me about this matter and my view on the matter was released publicly at the time."

He said any campaign to undermine his confidence in Adam Feeley's performance was entirely ineffective and unsuccessful.

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